This paper reviews the developments in dielectric elastomer actuator technology for several applications. Dielectric elastomers are a variety of electroactive polymer that deform due to the electrostatic interaction between two electrodes with opposite electric charge. Dielectric elastomers have been subject of much interest and research over the past decade. In earlier years, much of the focus was on actuator configurations, and in more recent years the focus has turned to investigating material properties that may enhance actuator performance. This review outlines the operating principle and actuation mechanisms behind this actuator technology, highlights some of its advantages over existing actuator technologies, identifies some of the challenges associated with its development, and examines the main focus of research within this field, including some of the potential applications of such an actuator technology. (C) 2008 American Institute of Physics.